Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Christian Movie Connect Episode 47 - Ben Davies

Ben Davies is no stranger to the world of entertainment appearing in his first national TV and print
ad campaign before he could even walk. A talented athlete, Ben was ranked the No.1 high school
decathlete in the 2008 by Track & Field News. In 2010, Ben was offered the coveted lead role of David
Thomson in the highly-acclaimed Sherwood Pictures film, “Courageous.”

In this interview, Davies talks with CMC host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, about his transition from athlete to
actor as a result of a career-ending injury and the strength he received to move forward with his life.
Davies desires to be involved with projects that promote a positive, life-changing message.

In “New Hope,” Ben plays high school basketball star, Lucas Green, who lost his brother, Chase, to
suicide. When new student, Michael Evans (Samuel Davis), comes to town, joins the basketball team and
begins to date Chase’s girlfriend, Jasmine Stone (Perry Frost), Lucas is forced to face his personal issues
and deal with his brother’s death.

“New Hope” is the story of relational connection, restoration and hope in God. “New Hope,” released on
DVD on October 9, 2012.

Beyond the Christian Movie - Part 1

Thanks to the latest development in digital video, it seems that everybody has become a filmmaker. That’s especially true in the world of Christian filmmaking. I’m sure you know the story of Sherwood Baptist Church. They have written the book on how to make low-budget Christian films.

What if you were approached to donate or invest in a Christian movie? What would you look for? How would you know if it was a good investment with tangible results? If you’re a filmmaker ask yourself if there is more to this than just making a movie? In other words, is there a bigger picture beyond the Christian movie?

Here are three questions you should ask yourself before you invest in a movie or decide to produce one:

1. Does this movie have the ability to point people to Christ? Of course, that’s the main reason most Christians get involved in filmmaking in the first place. But it’s more than just making a Christian movie. To be more effective requires us to expand our horizon. A redemptive, transformation, or cautionary tale can be more Christian in terms of its nature than most Christian movies are in terms of their content. You want something that’s effective and has an impact. Forget about just reaching a Christian audience. Can you go beyond that and actually attract a mainstream audience to your movie?

2. Does this movie provide opportunities to reach out to nonChristian media professionals? Most often Christians only want to work with Christians. What an opportunity we miss. Filmmaking is a collaborative process that presents opportunities to build trust, relationships, and friendships; therefore, our movie crews should have both Christians and nonChristians working together. Looking for outreach opportunities? Well you just found one. I can’t think of a better way to have an impact on the industry.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weekend Report: 'Argo' Ahead of Four Dreadful Debuts

Four new nationwide releases all underperformed this weekend, which allowed Argo to move up to first place in its third outing. Overall business was fairly quiet, with the Top 12 off 12 percent from last year with an estimated $82 million.

It's hard to gauge the actual impact of Hurricane Sandy, which is about to bear down on the East Coast. At worst, Sandy may have suppressed business by about 10 percent (for example, that would put Paranormal Activity 4's drop in line with Paranormal Activity 3), though it's impossible to say for sure. One thing that wasn't affected, at least, was the Saturday-to-Sunday drops: studios are estimating that the Top 10 will dip 42 percent from Saturday to Sunday, compared with 47 percent last weekend.

Argo eased 25 percent to an estimated $12.36 million in its third weekend. It's the first movie since True Grit to claim the top spot for the first time on its third frame. That's partly due to the movie's strong word-of-mouth, but incredibly weak competition also played a major role. Through 17 days, Argo has earned $60.8 million, which is off from The Town by just over $3 million.

Hotel Transylvania jumped from fourth place last weekend up to second place this weekend with $9.5 million (down 27 percent). The movie has now grossed $130.4 million, making it Sony Pictures Animation's top animated-only movie ahead of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ($124.9 million). It will eventually become SPA's top movie overall ahead of The Smurfs ($142.6 million), though it's going to get hit hard by Wreck-It Ralph this coming weekend.

Cloud Atlas had the highest debut among this weekend's newcomers with an estimated $9.4 million from 2,008 theaters. That's the lowest nationwide launch ever for the Wachowski siblings (who co-directed with Tom Tykwer), and it's also the worst nationwide opening for star Tom Hanks since 1996's That Thing You Do! At least the movie nearly matched The Fountain's $10.1 million total, though that's really not a ringing endorsement.

This is a disappointing, but not surprising, opening for Cloud Atlas. With six thinly-connected stories set in different time periods, the marketing was never able to convey an actual story, which is the most fundamental part of selling a movie. The insane runtime (164 minutes) was also likely a deterrent for casual moviegoers, while the middling reviews (62 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) weren't good enough to convince cinephiles to check it out. The movie could save some face overseas, where its strong visuals and internationally recognizable cast will help a lot, but it's still going to be a long road to profitability for this $100 million epic.

Warner Bros. reported that the audience was split about evenly between men (51 percent) and women, and skewed much older (77 percent over 25). They gave the movie a "C+" CinemaScore, which isn't shocking given the more challenging nature of the movie. IMAX contributed $1.13 million (or around 12 percent) from 105 locations.

Paranormal Activity 4 plummeted 70 percent to an estimated $8.68 million in its second weekend. That's the worst drop so far in the franchise behind Paranormal Activity 3's 66 percent. Through 10 days, the horror sequel has only earned $42.6 million, which is $10 million less than Paranormal Activity 3's opening weekend alone.

Fifth place was a tie between Taken 2 and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, both of which reported earning an estimated $8 million this weekend. For Taken 2, that brings its total to $117.4 million through four weekends, which is ahead of its predecessor by over $22 million.

Silent Hill, on the other hand, doesn't look so good compared to its predecessor, as its $8 million opening was off 60 percent from the first movie's $20.15 million. Blame that on the schlocky feel, the decreased relevance of the franchise (Can anyone recall seeing an ad for a Silent Hill game on TV in the past five years?) and competition from two other interesting horror choices (Paranormal Activity 4 and Sinister) over Halloween weekend. Distributor Open Road Entertainment is reporting that the movie received a "C" CinemaScore, and that 74 percent of revenue came from 3D showings.

In 10th place, Fun Size bombed with just $4.06 million at 3,014 theaters. That's lower than similar movie I Love You Beth Cooper ($4.9 million), and also marks a new low for a Nickelodeon movie behind Hey Arnold! The Movie ($5.7 million). Paramount is reporting that moviegoers were 67 percent female and 73 percent under the age of 25, and they gave the movie a fine "B" CinemaScore.

The worst debut of the weekend belongs to surfing drama Chasing Mavericks, which opened in 13th place with just $2.2 million. That's the ninth-worst debut ever in over 2,000 locations, and it's the second disastrous Fox/Walden Media movie in the past month following Won't Back Down ($2.6 million). The crowd was split evenly between men and women, and skewed a bit older (59 percent above 25). Its "B+" CinemaScore was the best among new releases this weekend, but it still won't get much past $5 million before it disappears from theaters.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Actor and director Emilio Estevez will film his next movie in Cincinnati

Actor Emilio Estevez won’t waste any time preparing to play a harness race driver in his new “Johnny Longshot” film.

Estevez, 50, will ride a two-wheel sulky at Lebanon Raceway today as he did a year ago in anticipation of filming here.

“It will take a lot of training in the sulky,” said Estevez, who will star and direct from his screenplay about a retired Cincinnati jockey making a comeback through harness racing.

“But I’ll also have a stunt double,” he said during a press conference at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum on Thursday.

At the event, Estevez handed a check to the Ohio Film Commission to accept a $3.8 million Ohio filmmakers tax credit for the family-friendly feature, similar to the “Mighty Ducks” movies he has made.

“Johnny Longshot” will hire 1,500 actors, extras and crew during the 37-day shoot next spring. That’s “the longest time any film of this size has spent in Cincinnati,” said Kristen Erwin, Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission executive director.

No other casting was announced. Most of the jobs will be filled by area residents, said producer Lisa Niedenthal, who grew up in Brookville, Ind., and attended Oldenburg Academy.

“We will bring in less than a handful of people from Los Angeles. We want to take advantage of the talent pool here,” she said.

Estevez – son of Cincinnati native Janet Templeton Sheen and Dayton native Martin Sheen – wrote the script seven years ago after watching harness racing with his father at a sports betting parlor. Production was delayed for Estevez to write and direct “The Way” for his father.

The horse-racing movie “was always going to be in Cincinnati,” he said. “We weren’t going to shoot it anywhere else.”

Sheen, Erwin and Niedenthal on Wednesday scouted Turfway Park and River Downs, but they will not be used for harness-racing scenes. Sulky races will be shot in Lebanon and possibly Scioto Downs near Columbus because the wheels dig ruts in the track, Estevez explained.

Estevez also toured Great American Ball Park, which could be used for a scene with main character John West throwing out a ceremonial first pitch – pending approval of the city, Reds, Hamilton County and Major League Baseball, Erwin said.

Estevez said he will return in January to prepare for filming in spring. The movie should be released late next year or in early 2014.

“You’ll be seeing a whole lot of me over the next few months, into May,” he said. “I wish we could get started (filming) tomorrow.”

Have we become sponges ?

What would it be like if we couldn’t read or write? How would you use the internet? It would be impossible to get a job. In today’s society, reading and writing are essential skills. Or can you imagine living in a foreign country and not knowing the language? Simple things like using the transportation system or ordering from a menu at a restaurant would be challenging.

Knowing the language is essential for navigating through life. Just as we need to be able to read and write, developing media skills is now just as important. Media has its own unique language. It consist of design, structure, meaning, and syntax. For Christians it is absolutely essential that we understand the language of media.

In John 8:32 it says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We need to know the truth and not just what anybody calls truth. Is what the media communicates to us really the truth? Or is it a distortion of reality? Understanding the tools and language of media will help us to be discerning. By not understanding the language of media, we are held captive to any message which the media wishes to communicate. Our goal as Christians is not to be subject to the control and influence of media.

We now live in a media culture that surrounds and envelopes every element of life. Our best defense is to become media savvy. For the most, part we don’t understand what we are being exposed to. For example, we would consider a G or PG movie to be relatively safe. And we would view most R-rated movies as offensive. But in reality, the G or PG movie today could contain more anti-Christian and anti-Biblical content than the R-rated movie. In fact, the R-rated movie could be a redemptive film which embraces Biblical views. Often we make assumptions that are not based on the facts.

Most people, including Christians, consume media without processing its purpose, goals, and message. We don’t ask challenging questions about its authenticity. Therefore we become sponges absorbing everything we see and hear

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hollywood the Dream Factory - Part 3

Artists also have common personality traits. Having worked with people in the industry for years, it’s somewhat easy to distinguish these traits. Most are driven, self-centered, aggressive and downright pushy. Unfortunately, it’s part of the business. It’s the only way you are going to get noticed.

Hollywood is also a culture of mistrust. It seems that everybody is playing an angle. You never know who is on the up and up. I’m sure that in any business or industry there is a fair share of backstabbing, cut-throat tactics, and betrayal but not to the point that it occurs in Hollywood. Competition in this industry is intense, and the desire to get ahead overshadows common sense. Who do you trust? Can you trust anyone? Show your script to your friend and before you know it, he or she has stolen your idea and made a deal. So it’s no surprise that trust is an issue in Hollywood.

Perhaps, one of the most important things about understanding this unique people group in Hollywood is to realize what they seek the most—affirmation, recognition and validation. The mind of the artist is fragile, sensitive, insecure and easily broken. They are always looking for someone to tell them that their art is worthy, and often you do not hear that in Hollywood. If anything, it’s a place that tears you down. It does not validate your worthiness. We all struggle with the issue of worthiness. But artists especially seek worthiness through their art because their art defines who they are as a person, and if their art is not important, they are not important.

As media missionaries we recognize that only a relationship with God can resolve these issues. Our mission is to understand the mind of the artist and the culture of Hollywood in order to be effective in communicating Biblical truth. But in order to do this we need a specialized group of people who are trained in all aspects of the media missionary’s calling.

NOTE: It’s important to emphasize that artists are everywhere. The culture of Hollywood exists in practically every corner of the world. Film, television and media production doesn’t just occur in Hollywood. You can be a media missionary in your own home town and reach those who work in media and entertainment.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hollywood the Dream Factory - Part 2

But, in reality, Hollywood can be the land of broken dreams. Over 10,000 people come to Hollywood each month seeking a new life. Likewise, 10,000 people leave each month broken, disillusioned and disappointed. There are only so many jobs available. The entertainment industry is probably the most difficult business to break into. And for those who have the ability to hang in there, a career in Hollywood most often is a struggle. Few find fame and fortune. You are just another waiter, valet or parking attendant trying to break into the business. It’s a tough life. Even for the lucky few who make it, they still feel unfulfilled. The Dream Factory sells dreams, not reality.

It’s no secret that many people who work in entertainment fall into drugs, drinking or sexual addiction. The industry and the culture it creates is full of stress and pressure. You are just as good as your last project. The social system that makes up Hollywood makes it easy and convenient to fall into destructive behavior. This is easy to understand once you realize that your dreams have turned into a nightmare. You turn to whatever comfort you can find.

If you want to be a media missionary, you have to understand the contrasting realities of the Hollywood Dream Factory and the land of broken dreams it creates.

Most of the people who come to Hollywood are artists. It’s crucial to understand the mind of the artist in order to reach him or her with the Gospel message. Artists are wired differently. I would go as far to say is that their brains don’t function like most of ours. Without making too many generalizations, they are free spirited, unconventional in how they view life, and more open to new ideas.

If you have friends who are artists, you realize they are different. Wherever artists gather or migrate to, they will create a unique culture. That’s exactly what’s happened in Hollywood. This helps to explain why Hollywood is so different from mainstream America.

A few years ago, Ray Comfort wrote a book called What Hollywood Believes. It offered insight into the minds of the artists who make up the entertainment industry. It revealed their worldviews are vastly different from most Americans. They are likely to be more liberal in their views of politics, religion, social issues and lifestyle choices. However, not everyone in Hollywood will fit into this pattern. That doesn’t necessarily mean that being liberal is either good or bad, but it is merely a reality of their belief system. Comfort also states that the majority of those in Hollywood have little or no religious training or education. They know very little if anything about Christianity. That makes them a prime mission field.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekend Report: Disappointing Debuts for 'Paranormal 4,' 'Alex Cross'

Paranormal Activity 4 took first place at the box office this weekend, though its comparatively underwhelming gross suggests audiences are growing tired of the perennial horror franchise. Alex Cross also missed the mark, though overall box office was still up at least 10 percent thanks to impressive holdover business from Argo and Hotel Transylvania.

The fourth installment in the Paranormal Activity scared up an estimated $30.2 million from 3,412 locations this weekend. For any other low-budget horror movie, this would be a fantastic start, but this franchise has established a track record, and with that track record comes expectations. On this same weekend last year, Paranormal Activity 3 set an October opening record with $52.6 million, while Paranormal Activity 2 debuted to $40.7 million the year before.

Of course, Paramount is still going to make truckloads of money on this movie, and a fifth installment is apparently on the way for next year. Still, without a miraculous second weekend hold (unlikely, given the movie's awful "C" CinemaScore) this is destined to be easily the lowest-grossing Paranormal Activity movie yet, which has to be disappointing.

The audience was split evenly between men and women, and skewed a bit younger (60 percent under the age of 25). The 286 IMAX locations only contributed six percent (around $1.8 million), which is a poor result for the large-format exhibitor.

In second place, Argo eased just 15 percent to an estimated $16.63 million. That's the best hold ever for a live-action movie in over 3,000 theaters that's released outside of November and December (when holiday weekends skew results). Also, after opening below Ben Affleck's The Town last weekend, Argo topped The Town in its second outing. Through 10 days, the Iranian hostage crisis thriller has earned $43.2 million, and it should have another great weekend coming up before facing stiff competition from Flight and Skyfall in early November.

Hotel Transylvania also had a great hold: the animated hit dipped 22 percent to an estimated $13.5 million for a new total of $119 million. It's poised to eclipse Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ($124.9 million) by Friday, and it's still on pace to beat The Smurfs ($142.6 million) to become Sony Picture Animation's highest-grossing movie ever.

After falling hard in its second weekend, Taken 2 bounced back with $13.4 million this weekend, which is off just 39 percent. The action sequel has so far grossed $106 million, and while it's not going to match its predecessor's $145 million, it's still going to come a lot closer than pretty much anyone would have expected a few months ago. Add in impressive overseas grosses ($174 million and counting), and Liam Neeson is surely being courted for Taken 3 right now.

In fifth place, Alex Cross opened to a disappointing $11.75 million from 2,539 locations. That's the worst opening ever for a movie starring Tyler Perry, and second-worst for a movie he's associated with behind Daddy's Little Girls ($11.2 million), which burned off some demand with a Wednesday opening. The debut is also lower than previous Alex Cross movies Kiss the Girls ($13.2 million) and Along Came a Spider ($16.7 million), even though those movies each were released over a decade ago.

The demographics tell a big part of the story here. The audience was 60 percent women, 68 percent over the age of 35, and 74 percent African American, all of which aligns with the typical Tyler Perry crowd. This suggests that Perry fans made up a large portion of moviegoers, while the legions of fans of the character Alex Cross and author James Patterson opted to skip the movie.

Sinister fell 50 percent to an estimated $9.03 million this weekend. That's not a good hold, but it also could have been much worse given the genre and the direct competition from Paranormal Activity 4. Through 10 days, the movie has earned $31.95 million.

Similar to many of the holdovers in the Top 12, Here Comes the Boom and Seven Psychopaths both retained a large portion of their audience. The Kevin James comedy dipped 28 percent to $8.5 million for a new total of $23.2 million, while Seven Psychopaths eased 21 percent to $3.3 million for a 10-day gross of $9.19 million (more than the entire run for In Bruges). Even with these great holds, though, both of these movies are still major disappointments.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Christian Movie Connect Episode 46 - Perry Frost

Perry Frost, Altanta-based comedienne and director of The Murder Mystery Company, makes her dramatic, film debut in the new faith-based film, “New Hope.” With extensive improvisational theatre work and performing for sold-out audiences, Perry’s transition to film is a new and rewarding experience. Perry is a genuine, consummate artist with an impressive portfolio in the fields of music, portrait painting, and visual art.

In this interview, Frost talks with CMC host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, about the challenges of growing up as a Pastor’s daughter and playing the role of a bad girl. Frost believes in the power of visual media to reach out to teens and influence culture in a positive way.

Perry plays Jasmine Stone, a troubled high school senior trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of her life after the suicide of her boyfriend, Chase. When Michael Evans (Samuel Davis) a pastor’s son comes to town as a new student, Jasmine’s life is both enriched and complicated by her relationship with Michael…and possibly changed in very dramatic ways. “New Hope” is the story of relational connection, restoration and hope in God. “New Hope,” released on DVD on October 9, 2012.

Hollywood the Dream Factory - Part 1

Do you want to reach the people who work and live in Hollywood? Are you prepared to be a media missionary? More than likely, you see Hollywood as a valid mission field. Hollywood and the entertainment industry is comprised of a unique people group with their own customs, language and rituals. In order to reach that people group, you must first understand what makes them function. What drives them? What’s important to them? What do they value? And, finally, what makes them unique from other people groups?

Once you understand a particular people group—their makeup and design—it becomes much easier to decipher their customs, language and rituals. How do you get to the heart of who the people are in Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry? I’ve worked with people in this industry for over 20 years. And there are a few things I have observed that could help us to understand the mindset of those who work in entertainment.

Hollywood has always been called the Dream Factory. You cannot understand Hollywood or the entertainment industry unless you understand what the Dream Factory represents. Hollywood is in the business of the mass production of dreams, which is represented in the art form of movies and television. At the same time, they also create dreams for the people who are pursuing careers in the entertainment industry.

The Hollywood Dream Factory and the American Dream are also closely tied to each other, especially for the people who work there. These concepts have led to a social system of mutual patterns and ideas which help to control and influence the activities of its members.

The Dream Factory’s ultimate objective is the pursuit of fame and fortune. This is a driving force in the culture that makes up Hollywood. Hollywood sells the idea that you can have it all. Anything is possible. It’s social system excels in flashiness, bigness and it’s own self-importance. It offers those who seek careers in the industry an opportunity to remake themselves into whatever they want to be.

The ideas that fuel the Dream Factory are complicated. They serve as a metaphor much like California, that if you can get there, life will be better for you there than where you came from. Therefore, those who come to Hollywood looking for opportunities to break into the business will try to achieve it at all costs. After all, who doesn’t want to be rich, famous and important? That’s what the Hollywood Dream Factory is selling, not only to their audience but to those who come looking for a better life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Disconnecting the Cable

I have worked in the media and youth ministry for years. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a parent tell me that the solution to solving negative media influence was to disconnect the cable box. They were convinced that their kids were now protected from the evil influence of today’s media. It’s a nice fantasy. Perhaps, it might help you to sleep at night, but it doesn’t work. Disconnecting the cable box is not the answer.

Media influence is everywhere. In fact, it’s led to a media culture where media and culture have combined a force that is capable of creating its own reality and truth that we accept as normal. If you think about what I have written, it can be an unsettling feeling. You could run to a bunker, but of course that’s not the answer either. It used to be much simpler before the age of mass media

Back in the 19th Century, most people lived on farms and rarely traveled more than twenty miles. They had little or no contact outside of their immediate family or community. Media influence was practically nonexistent. But when people started moving to the big cities, everything changed. Now we are forced to deal with it whether we like it or not.

The first step is to recognize that media does influence us, often in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. But the key to understanding media influence is to think of it as a process that occurs over time and takes place through five distinct levels.

Level I – Direct Contact. Is there any question that we are influenced by the movies, music and television programs we view and listen to?. I can offer you study by study about media influence. But here’s the best example that I think we all can relate to. Advertisers spend billions of dollars to convince you to buy their products and services. Who in their right mind would spend $3 million on a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl if it didn’t work? Most people don’t want to believe that they are being influenced by the media. But the facts don’t lie.

Level II – Indirect Contact. You and I are influenced by the people around us—our friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, etc. The people you know have been influenced by the media just as much as you’ve been. Chances are by movies and other forms of media that you have not directly been exposed to; therefore, you will be influenced whether consciously or unconsciously by the people you come in contact with. The important thing to remember is much of the media influence in your life will come from sources other than you being directly influenced by consuming it firsthand.

Level III – Institutional Contact. We are influenced by people we will never meet. How is this possible? This occurs through our institutions—schools, churches, government, business, and the media in general. Nothing exists within a vacuum. Our institutions are influenced by you, the people you know and the people you don’t know. Our institutions are made up of embedded values that develop over time. For example, our schools in some cases are changing text books and may be in the process of rewriting or erasing history. There has been a big controversy over this recently in Texas. But does history really change? By changing history, we change what people think as truth. Just because someone doesn’t have the same view, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And whose version of history are we talking about? For years, the media has questioned and continue to question the role that Judea-Christian values played in the founding of our nation. Today, that view is being reflected in what is being taught in our schools.

Level IV – Cultural Contact. You, the people you know, the people you don’t know and our institutions eventually form our cultural framework. Culture is more than just going to the opera. Culture helps to define our beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. We soon understand what’s important and what’s not important by their inclusion or exclusion. We take our cues from culture, and culture takes its cues from the media.

Level V – A Shared Consciousness. Culture eventually leads us to a shared consciousness, a collective way of thinking. Think of it in this way. We are wired and programmed to think in a certain way by the values and principles the culture believes are true. Our myths become reality because the media has the power to influence you, the people you know, the people you don’t know, our institutions and our culture.

Our collective consciousness leads us to an understanding of what is right or wrong. For example, why do men and women use separate bathrooms? We know instinctively that it is wrong for a man to use the women’s bathroom or vice versa.

Although, this concept is cut and dry, others are not. As a result, our collective consciousness has led us to some disturbing trends in the past few years. Our media culture is teaching us that truth is relevant. You and I, therefore, must now determine our own truth based on our circumstances and situation. The collective consciousness defines truth as a moving target. It is not consistent. This is in conflict with our Judeo-Christians principles where truth is defined by God’s Word.

Another example would be that our shared consciousness has embraced the importance of consumerism and materialism. We are defined by the things we own. Remember the car commercial that goes something like this: the things we make, make us. The products we now use are an extension of our lifestyle. We are the products, and the products are us. How did we get to this point to believe and accept such things? It’s very simple. The media culture is shaping our worldview and our shared consciousness.

Bottom Line: There are no easy answers to media influence. But pulling the cable box, dismantling your satellite, or dropping out of society is not the answer. Begin paying attention to what you see and hear on television, especially the commercials. Look for media that supports and embraces a positive influence which can lead to positive change in you, the people you know, the people you don’t know, our institutions, our culture and, ultimately, our shared consciousness as a people.

If you want to research this subject, check out my book, The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Media Culture. I have spent several years researching this topic.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weekend Report: 'Taken' Repeats, 'Argo,' 'Sinister' Tops Among Newcomers


October 15, 2012

Five new nationwide releases couldn't take down Taken 2, which once again took first place at the box office this weekend. Among those newcomers, Argo and Sinister performed well while Here Comes the Boom, Seven Psychopaths and Atlas Shrugged: Part II were varying degrees of disappointing.

The Top 12 earned $120.7 million this weekend, which is up an incredible 57 percent from the same frame last year. So far this month, box office is up at least 37 percent year-over-year, and up 22 percent over 2009's record pace. With Paranormal Activity 4 coming up, October 2012 is all-but-assured to set a new monthly record.

Taken 2 fell 56 percent to $21.9 million in its second outing. That fall is obviously much steeper than that of the original Taken (only 17 percent), though it's about on par with the second Bourne movie (off 54 percent). Taken 2 has already earned $86.1 million, which is $33 million ahead of the first movie through the same point.

In second place, Argo debuted to $19.5 million from 3,232 locations. That's lower than director/star Ben Affleck's The Town ($23.8 million), but that movie's bank robbers in Boston story was much more broadly appealing than Argo's Iranian hostage crisis set-up. Argo did wind up out-grossing other Middle East thrillers like The Kingdom ($17.1 million), Green Zone ($14.3 million) and Body of Lies ($12.9 million), which is likely due to Affleck's burgeoning fanbase and Warner Bros.'s solid marketing effort.

Exit polling indicated that the audience was 54 percent women, and skewed much older (74 percent over the age of 35). The movie received a rare "A+" CinemaScore. With an older audience, great word-of-mouth, and a healthy dose of Oscar buzz, Argo will play well over the next month or two and should wind up with at least $80 million.

Sinister opened to $18 million at 2,527 locations. It didn't come close to director Scott Derrickson's The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($30.05 million), but it was still up on The Possession ($17.7 million), The Ring ($15 million) and Insidious ($13.3 million). That's also the seventh-highest opening ever for Summit Entertainment behind all four Twilight movies, Red and Knowing.

Sinister's audience was 54 percent male and 53 percent under the age of 25. It garnered a "C+" CinemaScore, which is fairly standard for horror movies but still doesn't bode well for long-term prospects. Add in the direct, overwhelming competition from Paranormal Activity 4 next weekend and it's likely that Sinister will fall like a rock in the coming weeks.

Hotel Transylvania had another strong weekend, easing just 36 percent to $17.2 million. The animated hit passed $100 million on Sunday, and has so far earned $102.1 million total. It now appears to be on pace to pass The Smurfs ($142.6 million) to become Sony Pictures Animation's highest-grossing movie ever.

While Sony is having a ton of success with Hotel Transylvania, they have to be a lot less happy with Here Comes the Boom: the Kevin James vehicle opened to just $11.8 million from 3,014 locations this weekend. That's the lowest start ever for a James movie behind Zookeeper ($20.07 million) and The Dilemma ($17.8 million). At least the MMA comedy earned an "A" CinemaScore, which should help it save some face in the coming weeks.

Here Comes the Boom's audience was 55 percent general moviegoers and 45 percent families. Of all audience members over the age of 12, 52 percent were male.

Pitch Perfect dipped 38 percent to $9.3 million this weekend for a new total of $36 million. In its second outing, Frankenweenie fell 38 percent to $7.05 million for a weak early total of $22.1 million. Finally, Looper dropped 49 percent to $6.2 million, and has now reached $51.3 million.

Opening in ninth place with just $4.17 million, Seven Psychopaths was probably the biggest disappointment of the weekend. That figure is the lowest nationwide opening ever for CBS Films below last month's terrible debut for The Words ($4.75 million). It was also lower than nearly all comparable titles, including Shoot 'Em Up ($5.7 million). Of course, Seven Psychopaths was playing in far fewer theaters (1,480, instead of well over 2,000), but that excuse only goes so far: when releasing in a lower theater count, the theaters are disproportionately higher priced locations in denser population centers, and therefore should drive a much better per-theater average.

The audience skewed male (62 percent) and older (71 percent were 25 years and up). The overall CinemaScore was a fine "B+", though that improved to "A-" among males 18 to 34 years old. Seven Psychopaths will ultimately outgross writer-director Martin McDonagh's first movie, In Bruges ($7.8 million), but will struggle to even get to a meager $20 million by the end of its run.

After three successful weeks in limited release, The Perks of Being a Wallflower expanded nationwide in to 726 locations and earned an estimated $2.15 million this weekend. So far, the adaptation of the best-selling novel has grossed $6.14 million, and it's on its way to well over $10 million.

In 11th place, Atlas Shrugged: Part II bombed with just $1.75 million from 1,021 locations. In comparison, the first movie opened to $1.69 million from just 299 theaters. The issue here isn't the source material, as Ayn Rand's novel is one of the best-selling works of 20th century fiction. Instead, blame it on the terrible execution: only the most die-hard fans are going to show up for what appears to be a cheap interpretation of the beloved novel.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Christian Movie Connect Episode 44 – Rodney Ray

Rodney Ray, executive producer and director of “New Hope” talks with CMC host Cheryl Ariaz Wicker about his newest faith-based movie set to release on October 9, 2012.  Rodney Ray is the owner of the Louisiana-based film production company, R-Squared Productions.

The film stars Ben Davies, who plays the rookie cop in “Courageous.” “New Hope” premiered in West Monroe, Louisiana with a red carpet gala where Christian Movie Connect was present to capture the event. (See premiere coverage here). Over the next three weeks, CMC will also give you a chance to meet the cast of “New Hope.”

Story synopsis: Michael is not thrilled about his family’s move to New Hope, a small, close-knit southern town during his senior year. After all, it is his senior year. He is even less enthused about joining the town’s high school basketball team, especially when he begins to bump heads with the team’s star player, Lucas. Lucas is fiercely loyal to the memory of his brother Chase-the victim of a suicide that shook the entire town to its core.

To Lucas, Michael is reaping everything Chase left behind-an insult he refuses to accept. Jasmine, Chase’s longtime girlfriend, still has not found peace a year after his tragic death-until a chance meeting with Michael. Michael’s faith is tested as he endures confrontations with Lucas on and off the basketball court and through his growing fascination with Jasmine. With topics including peer pressure, alcohol, sex, suicide, relationships, and acceptance, New Hope captures the life of the modern teenager

Christian Movie Connect Episode 45 – Samuel Davis

Texas native Samuel Davis, star of the faith-based film, “New Hope” fell in love with acting in high school after auditioning for Julius Caesar, whereupon he dropped out of football and track & field. He is currently a student at the University of Texas at Austin. He began his film career in student films and commercials until he landed the lead role in “New Hope.” He has since been cast in three additional films, including the upcoming “Machete Kills,” written and directed by Robert Rodreiguz with an all-star cast.

In this interview Davis speaks with CMC host Cheryl Ariaz Wicker at the premiere of “New Hope” in West Monroe, Louisiana.

Samuel plays the role of Michael Evans, a senior year student who was quite unhappy when his family moved to a small town called New Hope. Michael experiences a lot of challenges with life and his faith especially after meeting Lucas (played by Ben Davies).

“New Hope,” is set to release October 9, 2012.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Forecast: ‘Argo,’ ‘Sinister’ and More Target ‘Taken 2’ on Busy Weekend


October 12, 2012

On the busiest weekend so far this Fall, five new nationwide releases will battle to see who can take the largest chunk of the box office pie, though first place will likely go to Taken 2 again. Argo and Sinister seem to be in the best position right now, while Here Comes the Boom will attempt to get in a few hits at over 3,000 locations. Seven Psychopaths and Atlas Shrugged: Part II are receiving much more modest releases and will both open outside of the Top Five.

Debuting at 3,232 theaters, Argo is the third movie directed by Ben Affleck, who has experienced a well-documented career resurgence thanks to his work behind the camera. In 2007, Affleck's directorial debut Gone Baby Gone was a modest box office performer with $20 million, though it received great reviews (94 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and built up a strong post-theatrical following. As a result, Affleck was able to make Boston-set crime drama The Town, which opened to a solid $23.8 million on its way to a very good $92.2 million total. The movie also received great reviews (94 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and is well-regarded with movie fans (7.6 rating on IMDb).

Similar to The Town, Argo has Affleck playing double duty as both director and actor. Advertisements emphasize the connection to The Town, though on the surface the two movies are very different. While The Town is set in the widely-appealing world of Boston crime, Argo is a period thriller that splits its time between the halls of the CIA, the backlots of Hollywood, and the streets of post-revolution Iran. The Middle East setting in particular is troublesome: while the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya makes Argo more timely, it also prevents the movie from appearing as the kind of escapist entertainment audiences are looking for when they head to the movies.

Going strictly based on the great reviews (91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and hefty Internet buzz, the setting and time period doesn't seem to be a huge issue. But those factors can't necessarily be trusted. As strange as this may sound, a good comparison is October 2010's The Social Network. Both movies are well-reviewed, come from an acclaimed director, and were receiving tons of awards buzz ahead of their release. Also, each movie is about something near-and-dear to the hearts of movie bloggers: in The Social Network's case, it's entrepreneurship on the Internet, and in Argo's case it's the movie industry. Therefore, online anticipation doesn't necessarily align with that of mainstream moviegoers. The Social Network ultimately opened to a fine $22.4 million on its way to $96.7 million—if Argo winds up at the same levels (also similar to The Town's figures) it will be in very good shape.

Low-budget horror movie Sinister seemingly come out of nowhere to also be a contender at this weekend's box office. Sinister has all the trappings of a strong horror movie entry: it's got the haunted house, the home movies, and an insanely scary marketing campaign. It's also been building buzz via targeted screenings like one at South by Southwest, which has helped get the message out to genre fans. It's really the only horror movie in the marketplace this weekend, and it seems to have avoided being overshadowed by Paranormal Activity 4's upcoming debut. Sinister's R rating is going to keep it from popping to the level of director Scott Derrickson's The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($30 million), though Insidious's $13.3 million start seems like the low point this weekend.

Is Family Friendly Programming the Cure?

If you are in pain or feeling sick, you usually go to your family doctor. You want a proper diagnosis. It’s not enough just to treat the symptoms. You want a cure for what ails you. In some instances, your life may actually depend on a correct diagnosis.

What about the media? Some say the media is sick. Obviously, you can find plenty of violence, sex, nudity and bad language. But are these just mere symptoms or the actual disease? Is there a cure? Recently, there’s been an increased effort to produce more family-friendly programming that emphasizes traditional family values. Several individuals, along with various organizations and foundations, are spearheading the effort with increased funding to create both family-friendly movies and television series. The goal is to restore the traditional family hour back to network television.

It’s a lofty goal. But, again, are we treating the right patient? Is the media really the issue? I would agree that family-friendly programming is part of the answer; however, it’s neither the beginning nor the end of a real cure for what ails our culture. The real patient is the media culture, which I define as a force that is capable of creating our reality. Often this is a false reality that we accept as normal and routine.

The media culture can be expressed in four broad concepts. First, it is a life that is lived in the marketplace where everything becomes a form of commercialization. As a result, our worth and value is determined by the size of our bank account. Making money has become our first priority. It seems like everything in life has to be monetized.

Second, the media culture is driven by consumerism. We are convinced to spend all of our money on things that we really don’t need. We are told that our next purchase will bring fulfillment and happiness; however, seldom is this ever the case. Consumerism drives our society. Without it, our entire economy would crash.

Third, the media culture is powered by advertising, marketing and branding. We become the products that we use. Our identity and lifestyle are wrapped around the media we consume and the products which are advertised within that media. It’s a form of psychological brainwashing.

Fourth, the media culture is attained through celebrity. We have been conditioned to want our 15 minutes of fame. Because “it’s about me”, we want to be noticed and exalted. We want to be important just like the people we see in the media. We are taught that we can be just like them; therefore, we seek status, power and recognition. The media culture has an overwriting theme that ties all of these elements together. Its central message is whatever you want or need you should have regardless of the consequences. Everything revolves around what you want; therefore, you are the center of your own personal universe.

When I talk about a media culture as the patient, most people’s eyes sort of gloss over. They want simple answers. It’s just easier to blame the media. Many people believe we can solve our problems by changing the face of media and entertainment with more family-friendly programming. However, the truth is that complex problems require complex solutions. There is no easy answer. As I said, programs that emphasize traditional family values are a good start. But our real problem is addressing the media culture, and that requires a completely different approach than just trying to fix the media.

The reason I wrote my book, The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture, is to address these issues in detail. I believe it offers a correct diagnosis with real solutions. I hope you’ll take a look at it. It’s going to require some time and effort on your part; however, it will change your perspective and view of how you see God at work in your life as well as in every aspect of our society. Putting the principles that are within the book into operation won’t be easy.

It involves awareness, understanding the real issues, coming to terms with how we have been influenced as people of faith by the media culture, educating ourselves, changing our perspective on Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry, understanding how God is at work in Hollywood, redefining what a mission field is, the power of prayer, rethinking how we deal with artists in the church and, ultimately, the raising up, equipping, training and supporting media professionals who think and work as missionaries.

The bottom line is unless we deal with the media culture and its impact on our society, we will continue to have a challenging and difficult time fulfilling the Great Commission and building the Kingdom of God. At the moment, we are stuck in neutral and slipping backwards.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It was all clean wholesome entertainment

I was born in 1956 smack in the middle of the baby boomer generation. To put it another way, I’m a full-pledged member of the TV generation. In my house, the television was always on. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t on. It started in the morning through game shows into the afternoon when my grandmother watched soap operas and all the way into the evening programming, ending with the 11 o’clock newscast.

For my generation, television was our baby sitter. It was a real bargain. Our parents put us in front of the tube. We were happy, and they were happy. Nobody asked any questions. Nobody thought about whether or not there would be repercussions. It was all clean, wholesome entertainment. Remember, these were the days of Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best.

Recently, I started to think. Did our parents really understand what was going on? Did they realize there were consequences for our society? The TV generation learned well. We grew up with television and wanted to be part of the industry. Later on, we would perfect the use of television by learning how to control and manipulate our audiences. By doing so, we would change the course of culture. Our parents were just looking for a cheap babysitter.

I have a number of friends who work in ministries that are addressing the issues that impact our society from drug use, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, sexual addictions, pornography, and the abortion issue. Most of these issues started to emerge in significant numbers during the 1960s and exploded throughout the 1970s. It kinda makes you wonder. Could there be a connection between television and the rapid increase of social problems?

Stay with me on this one. Think about it. What happened when television came into our homes? I know that if you weren’t there firsthand, this may be a difficult concept to understand. But overnight television became our friend. Our pal. We made it the center attraction in our living rooms. Although a television was expensive to buy, by 1960 practically every American family had one. As I said earlier, in my house the television was always on. Maybe that’s the point I’m trying to make—not that television is either good or evil, but the fact that it became a dominating and controlling factor in our lives. We couldn’t stop watching. We became addicted to the tube. And whatever the tube said was truth and all important.

Furthermore, we stopped interacting with each other. We had less family time. Less time to throw the ball in the back yard. Less time to check in on our daily lives. Less time for help with homework. Less time to be creative. Our lives became separate. In some families, even during the dinner hour, the television would still be on. Do you see a pattern here?

If the family unit doesn’t know what’s happening in each other’s lives, will we be able to see issues that could become problems? Our ability to connect and be united as a family started to disintegrate. Perhaps, this helps to explain why the family today is in critical condition.

If anything, with the acceleration of technology and mobile media devices, we now live a world in which you can access your media any time, any place, any device. What do you think that’s doing to further break down the family unit?

There’s one other point to consider. As baby boomers, our parents bought into the message that television was communicating. They determined to have it all no matter the cost. What they saw on their shiny TVs was The American Dream. A new house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. The finest automobiles Detroit could build. Modern appliances. A swimming pool. Dream vacations. Fashionable clothes and a lifestyle that only their parents could dream about. Who wouldn’t want it? That’s what television was selling. And we were buying.

But what about the cost? How much time would our parents have to spend away from home working long hours and sometimes weekends. In some households both parents had to work to achieve the American Dream. And what was the effect on the children? My generation. The TV generation. Our babysitter taught us well. Perhaps we learned too well. And we have passed it on to our children. And they have mastered it.

It’s never too late to change our course and the course of our children and grandchildren. We still have time. But in this media-saturated culture, we have to learn how to create some space so we can once again connect as a family.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Glittering New Frontier

By the early 1920s, men like Carl Laemmle, William Fox, and Louis B. Meyer came to control and dominate Hollywood and movie making for decades to come. Amazingly, a few individuals would now have the power and influence to create movies for the entire American population and the world. They would decide which films would be made and which ones would not, which ideas would be expressed and which ones would be discarded. They would decide what was important and what was not. Never had so much power been placed in the hands of so few men.

In the 1930s, Louis B. Meyer, President of MGM, viewed America as a glittering new frontier, decent but tough-minded, full of God-fearing but gun-slinging Americans who were shrewd, unpredictable and unbeatable but also open-hearted and family loving. And he depicted this view in the movies he produced.

Meyer and his fellow movie moguls offered a vision of America that people wanted to believe and were willing to accept. It made us feel good about ourselves. Meyer understood that it was good for business. The majority of studio heads had no political or social agenda. They were interested in one thing and one thing only—making money. Was their view of American life realistic? It offered no racism, prejudice or social injustice. It defined America as a land of opportunity, champion of individuals, and defender of the poor. It offered no insight into how Americans really lived their daily lives.

The moviegoer saw no instances of alcoholism or domestic abuse in family lives. In Meyer‘s world, good always triumphed, and evil was punished. Every family embraced moral values and practiced faith and patriotism. The cowboys were good, and the Indians were bad. This view of America has perpetuated itself to this very day. We think of the 1930s through the 1950s as the ―good old days. In some ways, Hollywood had no choice but to reflect these views because that‘s what Americans wanted to believe. This was reinforced by a production code, which was imposed on filmmakers by both Protestant and Catholic churches.

We came to view ourselves by what we saw in the movies in the 1930s and 1940s and television programs from the 1950s, including shows such as Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best, as a representation of the real America. But in reality it is a mythology created by Meyer and his fellow studio heads that created a version of America that only existed in the movies. This is evidence of the power of media—that we are willing to accept a lie over the truth because the lie makes us feel better about ourselves. It raises the question of what else are we willing to accept as the truth.

Does God have a Plan for Hollywood ?

Over the years, people have asked me what is God’s heart for Hollywood and is he at work there. Maybe the question should be why would he not be at work in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. I’m convinced that God is at work in every area of human activity. So let’s examine the heart of God in Hollywood.

There are three things I believe that God desires for Hollywood and the entertainment industry. First, he wants the people of Hollywood to know him. Is there any question that God desires all of mankind to be redeemed? And that would include Hollywood and the entertainment industry. That will only happen if the Body of Christ changes its current view of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. We must stop condemning them and see Hollywood as a mission field. They are no different than us. The people of Hollywood need a savior. Most of the people who work in Hollywood are hardworking people who have families and they don't live lifestyles of the rich and famous. Let’s stop blaming them for all of societies ills.

The Body of Christ must commit to prayer. We need to pray for the people of Hollywood to come to know Christ as Lord and Savior. It’s safe to say that the vast majority of the Body of Christ has not committed to praying for Hollywood. And some may believe it is a complete waist of time. And if we are going to reach Hollywood, we must take the next bold step of sending media missionaries. How will they know Him if someone does not tell them about Christ.

Depending on which study you read or who you talk to, only 4 percent of Hollywood and the entertainment industry attend church. Hollywood is a vast mission field. It’s obvious that we need media missionaries to create art that reflects Biblical values. But it is just as important that we need media missionaries working in Hollywood so that they can be a witness and testimony to their fellow peers. Who is going to reach them unless we send people into the mission field of Hollywood and the entertainment industry?
The second key point for God’s heart in Hollywood is that he desires art that reflects his truth. God will do whatever it takes to tell his message. And that includes using nonbelievers. The facts speak for themselves. Over the years, some of the best Christian movies with Biblical truth have been made by nonbelievers. It is quite a list from Truman, the Matrix, Juno, American Beauty and Magnolia. There have been countless testimonies of people’s lives being impacted by mainstream movies created by nonbelievers. God will use and inspire anyone to reflect his truth and glory. If Christians aren’t willing to go to Hollywood, this will not stop God from completing his mission. He is at work in Hollywood, whether we realize it or not. But he is inviting us to join him in his work.

And finally, God wants to impact the audience. The reason that God has inspired artists to create art that reflects his truth is to impact the viewers. All of these efforts would mean nothing unless the art that filmmakers and media makers create can challenge the audience to consider what truth is. It must be thought-provoking and lead viewers to explore the decisions and lifestyles they are currently living. Art should draw the audience closer to God and not further away. It should encourage us to start a dialogue and ask questions about the meaning and origin of what we have encountered at the movies or in the media.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Weekend Report: 'Taken 2' Kills, 'Frankenweenie' Fails

Taken 2


Leveraging good will from the first movie, Taken 2 dominated at the box office this weekend with one of the best October debuts ever. Pitch Perfect performed admirably in its nationwide expansion, while Frankenweenie bombed against tough holdover competition from Hotel Transylvania. The Top 12 earned an estimated $132.3 million this weekend, which is up a whopping 55 percent from the same frame last year.

Taken 2 tallied an estimated $50 million this weekend, which is more than double the first Taken's $24.7 million. It's also up on nearly all comparable titles, including this year's Safe House ($40.2 million) and The Bourne Legacy ($38.1 million). Taken 2's opening ranks third all-time in the month of October behind Paranormal Activity 3 ($52.6 million) and Jackass 3-D ($50.4 million).

The success of Taken 2 really shouldn't come as a big surprise. While it's not for everyone, the first Taken maintains a very strong reputation over three years after its release (it has a great 7.9 rating on IMDb). For Taken 2, distributor 20th Century Fox rolled out a mighty marketing campaign that demonstrated that the sequel retained the action and character of the first movie, while making just enough changes (location, more identifiable villain) to not seem like a complete retread. This is about all it takes to release a successful sequel: make sure the first movie is well-liked, and promise more of the same.

Exit polling indicated that the audience skewed older (56 percent were 25 years of age and up) and was pretty evenly split between men and women (52 percent male), which suggests Taken 2 was a good date night choice. Reviews are god-awful (20 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but moviegoers were much more forgiving—they awarded Taken 2 a "B+" CinemaScore, which means the movie may not fall like a rock next weekend. Still, it's going to be a lot more front-loaded than its predecessor, and matching Taken's $145 million domestic total is going to be a real challenge.

In second place, Hotel Transylvania dipped 38 percent to an estimated $26.3 million. That brings the movie's 10-day total to a very good $76 million, which is over $15 million ahead of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs through the same point.

Pitch Perfect expanded to 2,770 locations and earned $14.7 million this weekend. That's lower than most comparable titles, including Bring It On ($17.4 million) and last October's Footloose ($15.6 million), though the movie surely burned off some of its initial demand with the limited release last week. The audience was overwhelmingly female (81 percent) and was also on the younger side (55 percent under the age of 25). Without any direct competition coming up for this younger female audience, Pitch Perfect should be able to leverage its strong word-of-mouth ("A" CinemaScore) in to a final gross north of $50 million.

Looper eased 41 percent to an estimated $12.2 million in its second outing. That drop is identical to Source Code's last year, though Looper's $40.3 million 10-day total is much higher than Source Code's $28.2 million. If Looper continues along this pace, it will wind up with over $75 million by the end of its run.

Frankenweenie took fifth place this weekend with a disappointing $11.5 million debut. That's way off from Tim Burton's last stop-motion animated movie Corpse Bride, which earned $19.1 million in its nationwide expansion. It's also lower than ParaNorman's $14.1 million, and only a tad up on April's stop-motion bomb The Pirates! Band of Misfits ($11.1 million).

A number of factors conspired to thwart Frankenweenie's box office prospects. Disney's decision to release the movie just a week after Hotel Transylvania is a baffling one: yes, Hotel Transylvania wasn't expected to perform quite so well, but it still seems foolish to expect to draw family audiences in this head-to-head matchup. The bigger problem, of course, was in the product itself: stop-motion animation already is a niche genre, and to throw black-and-white on top of that made the movie even more inaccessible. The marketing did have Tim Burton's name slapped all over it, but it's unclear how strong Burton's brand is without regular collaborator Johnny Depp.

Audiences gave Frankenweenie a "B+" CinemaScore. Without any real competition (besides, of course, Hotel Transylvania), the movie should hold well leading up to Halloween, but this start is so poor that it's not going to make much of a difference.